Like many Americans I know, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. I have a number of reasons for this: I want to give Thanksgiving its due as a holiday. I think 24 days is plenty of time to get sick music you’re likely subjected to on an endless and inescapable loop; adding November to the length of that loop is a nauseating thought. I’m a compartmentalist who subdivides files, makes lists to sort out her Facebook friends, and listens to the same children’s books the night of every major holiday, as she has every year since she was a child.
It probably doesn’t help that I hate a lot of the most commonly-played songs.
I despise “Santa Baby.” I can’t tolerate the whiny childish voice of whoever sings “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” and that song by Alvin and the Chipmunks gives me a headache – in fact, I would happily canonize anyone who gets chipmunked music banned. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” was funny the first time I heard it but has since lost its charm; I can handle “Dominic the Donkey” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” perhaps three times a year.
Lest I spend this entire post Bah Humbug-ing pop-y commercial rubbish, let me hasten to list a few songs I love: “What Child is This?,” “The First Noel,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” “Silent Night,” “Carol of the Bells.” Carols, in other words – the old religious songs that aren’t about elves or Santa or reindeer. I do love “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” mostly for the line, “you’ve got garlic in your soul,” and that song about fruitcake that the choir at my high school always sang will forever hold a special place in my heart – but aside from that, I’m very much a traditionalist. (Trans-Siberian Orchestra remixes of carols totally count.)
This year, I’m grateful to be able to cleave to my traditions and preferences – in Mongolia, that often wasn’t the case. Mongolia as a whole has very interesting taste in Western music, which is to say that you hear an awful lot of the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and ABBA. They really like their ABBA. And since a lot of Mongolians don’t actually understand the English words in the songs they listen to, Christmas songs are regularly decontextualized. No one bats an eyelash at “All I Want For Christmas Is You” as a July ringtone.
Alas, the songs they do recognize as pertaining to this season – by which I mean they are played more regularly, but not exclusively, in December – are among my least favorite of all. I’d never heard ABBA’s “Happy New Year” before I lived in Mongolia, and I rather with it had stayed that way. And if I never hear “Last Christmas” again, it will be too soon.
What are your most- and least-favorite Christmas songs? Other languages count – I’d love to hear some traditional Christmas music from other cultures.